I’ve been given the gift of an evening alone. I haven’t had an evening alone in at least two weeks, if not longer. I catch myself wondering what I’ll do with myself. Weird feelings surface like fear and an almost lonely-like feeling.
I spent all last summer alone. Alone because of the pandemic and alone due to having uncoupled. Living alone. Being alone. A lot of time alone. Now I have one night and strange fears come running as though they were always there just forgotten. But why are they even there to begin with? I spend so much time wishing for more time and space. Now that I have it I find myself at a loss. Like I’m suspended between worlds.
I’m sitting in my purple armchair by the window. It occurs to me that there are other people in the world at this very moment who are also sitting by themselves. They are also reflecting on their aloneness. So I tap into those people and the web that connects us. When I do that I no longer feel alone.
It begs the question… are we ever really alone? Loneliness is a rampant problem in our modern culture. Too many people live alone without the benefits of a community to support them. And that’s even before the pandemic kicked in. Now I’m certain it’s only worsened. But even in apparent separateness we can choose to feel our connection to other people in this exact moment.
There’s a Buddhist practice called Tonglen that inspires this inquiry. In tonglen, you can sit in easy pose (flat on the ground with your legs crossed) or comfortably in a chair. Your hands can be in prayer position at the heart center or resting gently on your knees. Take a few deep breaths in and out to still the mind.
Then with your next in-breath you visualize taking in the suffering or pain of a certain group of people. On the out-breath you visualize sending them the relief or healing they require. You continue to do this for several cycles.
When I first learned this practice my lifecoach at the time encouraged me to do it anytime I was having difficult feelings. The intent being that I’d connect in with other people feeling the same way I felt which would help me feel less alone in my experience. Then I’d practice breathing it all in for myself and for them and breathing out relief. Of course, my biggest takeaway was that I felt less alone in my feelings. And that’s what I draw on today.
I’m not alone in my feelings of fear and loneliness. I’m not alone even when it looks like I am. There are always other people out there in the world at this very moment who know what it’s like to feel how I feel. I may never meet them but they exist. And knowing they’re there in this exact moment feeling like I do helps me feel tremendously better.
My evening alone hasn’t been half bad afterall. Getting to connect with others who are worlds away makes all the difference. And getting to share this with you makes it even better.
Photo found on Unsplash.